In Production Today, December 2014

Mangelwurzel, fodder beet group, Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima
Mangelwurzel, fodder beet group, Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima

Rain. Finally!

At last the lawn has grown enough for me to cut it for the second time since autumn, my team of lawn mowing guinea pigs can’t eat it fast enough. The hot, humid – and recently wet – weather is bringing a fine crop of mangelwurzel, beetroot and silverbeet to a close, they just can’t cope with bacterial and fungal diseases of a subtropical summer. So it became necessary to invent Jerry’s summer root salad.

As cool season winter crops make way for warm season crops, the juvenile Elephant’s Foot yams (Amorphophallus paeoniifolius) have sprouted – and I’ve repotted them. This is emerging as a useful starch staple crop from subtropical and tropical gardens around the world, but it has long been an important staple in South Asia. It is also native to tropical Australia where it has been grown for millennia.

It’s time to regenerate my cocoyam bed (Xanthosoma saggitifolia) using stem sections and tip cuttings, to sow fodder corn corn for the guinea pigs’ supper and Red Aztec for the household.

Each season I check through my seed bank checking the dates when seed was saved, looking for things that need to be sown before they get too old. From this I sowed Puya mirabilis, an ornamental bromeliad, and Teosinte (Zea mays subsp. mexicana) a perennial wild corn. I hope to re-bank seed from my Teosinte as this is my last seed.

The volunteer Italian flat-leaved parsley, heavy with almost ripe seed, have taken a battering from storm winds, so the broken branches are now drying out under the house. Weeks ago, I bagged seed heads taken from my winter crops, like Dai Gai Choi ‘Wynnum Imperial’, and I’m gradually getting through saving their seed.

The garden is full of bee activity, mostly Blue Banded bees (Amegilla cingulata), which are brilliant pollinators of crops in the Solanaceae family (potato, tomato, chilli, eggplant, etc) but since the catnip (Nepeta cataria) started blooming, Neon Cuckoo bees have joined in the hunt for nectar. On 9th December, I spotted four Neon Cuckoo bees (Thyreus nitidulus) working the catnip simultaneously, a record number at Bellis.

Jerry’s experimental summer root salad

Every time you have an abundant crop, experiment with it. Since I have an embarrassment of  yam, beetroot, mangelwurzel and silverbeet, I cooked some for a salad. When cool, I combined the diced roots with diced fetta cheese.

To bring the dish to life, I made an salad dressing using fresh Tahitian lime juice, olive oil and horseradish sauce. Fantastic!

If there’s anything listed here you fancy trying yourself, join the Seed Savers Network. Our seed is free to our members.

If you want to buy seed or plants listed here, refer to my blog ‘Where do I get seed for that plant?’.

Here’s my subtropical food garden’s current summer menu:

Edible roots
Arrowroot, Canna edulis
Bamboo, Monastery, Thyrsostachys siamensis
Beetroot, Beta vulgaris ‘McGregor’s Favourite’
Cassava, Manihot esculenta
Cassava, Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’
Cocoyam, Xanthosoma saggitifolia
Jerusalem artichoke, Helianthus tuberosus ‘Dwarf Sunray’
Mangelwurzel, fodder beet group, Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima

Edible leaves
Basil, sacred, Ocimum tenuiflorum
Cassava, Manihot esculenta
Cassava, Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’
Celery stem taro, aka Tahitian spinach, Alocasia esculenta
Cha-plu, Piper sarmentosum
Chickweed, Stellaria media
Chicory, Cichorium intybus
Chicory, Cichorium intybus ‘Red Dandelion’
Chinese celery, aka smallage, Apium graveolens
Chinese spinach, Amaranthus tricolor
Chinese spinach, Amaranthus tricolor ‘Flaming Fountains’
Chinese spinach, Amaranthus tricolor ‘Mekong Red’
Chinese spinach, Amaranthus tricolor ‘Red Callaloo’
Chives, Allium schoenoprasum
Coriander, Coriandrum sativum
Coriander, Thai, Eryngium foetidum
Cranberry Hibiscus, Hibiscus acetosella
Curry bush, Helichrysum italicum
Curry leaf, Murraya koenigii
Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
Dill, Anethum graveolens
Endive, Cichorium endivia ‘Pancellari Fine Cut’
Eschallot, Allium cepa var. aggregatum
Fennel, Florence, Foeniculum vulgare Azoricum Group ‘Zefa-Fino’
Fennel, Bronze, Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’
Garlic chives, Allium tuberosum
Green Amaranth, Amaranthus viridis
Huauzontle, Chenopodium berlandieri
Japanese parsley, Cryptotaenia japonica
Kaffir lime, Citrus hystrix
Kale, Brassica oleracea ‘Red Russian’
Lagos spinach, Celosia spicata
Landcress, Barbarea vulgaris
Lebanese cress, Aethionema coridifolium
Lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus
Lemongrass, Native, Cymbopogon flexuosus
Mangelwurzel, fodder beet group, Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima
Marjoram, Origanum marjorana
Mexican tree spinach, Cnidoscolus aconitifolius
Mint, Corsican, Mentha requienii
Mint, native, Mentha satureoides
Mint, Moroccan, Mentha spicata
Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus
Old man saltbush, Atriplex nummularia
Onion, Tree or Egyptian Walking, Allium x proliferum
Onion, Welsh, or spring onion, aka scallion, Allium fistulosum
Onion, Welsh perennial, or perennial spring onion, aka scallion, Allium fistulosum
Pandan, Pandanus amaryllifolius
Parsley, Petroselenium crispum ‘Italian flat-leaved’
Purslane, Wild, Portulaca oleracea
Purslane, Golden, Portulaca oleracea subsp. sativa
Radicchio, Cichorium intybus
Rocket, Wall or wild, Eruca saliva
Silverbeet, Beta vulgaris cicla ‘Rainbow Mixed’
Society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea ‘Variegata’
Society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea ‘Fairy Stars’
Stinking Roger, Tagetes minuta
Sweetpotato, Ipomoea batatas ‘Ace of Spades’
Sweetpotato, Ipomoea batatas ‘Marguerite’
Swinecress, Coronopus didymus
Thyme, Variegated, Thymus serpyllum ‘Variegata’
Variegated four seasons herb, Plectranthus amboinicus ‘Variegatus’
Variegated four seasons herb, Plectranthus amboinicus ‘Bayside Beauty’
Vietnamese mint, Persicaria odorata
Warrigal greens, Tetragonia tetragonioides

Edible petals
Bedding Begonia, Begonia semperflorens
Cranberry Hibiscus, Hibiscus acetosella (excellent for tea)
Fig-marigold, Aptenia cordifolia
Goldenrod, Solidago sp.
Pansy, Viola tricolor ‘Johnny Jump Up’
Rocket, Wall or wild, Eruca sativa Stinking
Roger, Tagetes minuta
Society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea ‘Fairy Stars’

Edible seed
Chilean wine palm, Jubaea chilensis
Pigeon pea, Cajanus cajan

Edible fungi
White or button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus

Banana (green), Musa x sapientum ‘Java Blue’
Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Long Red Cayenne’
Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Portuguese Peri Peri’
Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Siam Gold’
Kaffir lime, Citrus hystrix
Lime, Tahitian, Citrus x latifolia
Mulberry, White Shahtoot, Morus alba var. laevigata ‘White Shahtoot’
Pawpaw, Carica papaya ‘Southern Red’
Pepino, Solanum muricatum
Pineapple, Ananas comosus ‘Queensland Rough’
Strawberry, Fragaria anassae ‘Red Gauntlet’
Tomato, Lycopersicon esculentum ‘Indigo Ruby’, an F1 Hybrid donated by High Sun to trial

Medicinal / Spices
Aloe vera – leaf juice used to heal sunburn, scratches, and for shampoo;
Bulbine frutescens – leaf juice used to treat burns, rashes, as an infusion for sore throats;
Brahmi herb, Bacopa monnieri – aids cognitive function;
Cardamom, Eletteria cardamomum;
Cardamom, False, Alpinia nutans;
Catnip, Nepeta cataria; the juice left by rubbing elbows and ankles with fresh leaves helps deter mosquitoes;
Galangal, Alpinia galangal – spice used like ginger with similar properties;
Ginger, Culinary, Zingiber officinalis – spice that helps decongestion of catarrh, aids digestion, blood flow;
Ginger, Shampoo (species unknown) – from Seed Savers. Juice from leaves and roots (rhizomes) used to wash hair;
Greater celandine, Chelidonium majus – stem juice kills warts on hands;
Herb Robert, Geranium robertianum – juice used to heal wounds, relieve toothache, staunch bleeding;
Krachai (root), Boesenbergia rotunda;
Rosemary, dwarf, Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Benenden Blue’;
Rosemary, fastigiate, Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Miss Jessopp’;
Skullcap, Scutellaria lateriflora (young plants);
Turmeric, Curcuma longa – spice with anti-cancer properties;

107 taxa

Jerry Coleby-Williams
12th December 2014


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.